Three days into the new Joint Field Office for Alabama tornado recovery, Federal Coordinating Officer Joe Girot and his team joined the largest earthquake drill in Region IV’s history — the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut. Safety officers Hal Pashon and Rob Dahlman briefed the team in advance on what to expect. Hal explained that when the alarm sounded, all staff should be ready to drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture, and hold on to something to gain stability.
Approximately 70 people were in the JFO during the drill and all participated in what Pashon called, “a great learning experience.” For some, especially employees living in Alabama and local hires, it was their first experience with an earthquake exercise. According to the National Geological Survey, living far from the West Coast of the United States doesn’t ensure safety from earthquakes. While the West Coast does have a high probability of earthquakes, a potentially hazardous area also fans out from the “New Madrid” fault line that straddles Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. Repercussions from earthquakes along this fault line could affect more than 15 million people in eight states – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
Following the drill, Hal distributed additional information on how one should respond to a quake under different circumstances, including being indoors vs. outdoors, in a downtown area, in a moving vehicle and trapped under debris.
Joe said he was pleased with the response from his team:
As emergency responders, we aren’t able to help other people after a disaster if we don’t know how to take care of ourselves during one. This exercise was a great learning opportunity for us and gave us better perspective on the real-life preparation and vigilance required to survive an earthquake.